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Son of former Siena coach McCaffery in a comfortable place playing for Albany Dutchmen

Son of former Siena coach McCaffery in a comfortable place playing for Albany Dutchmen

Connor McCaffery, son of former Siena men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery, playing PGCBL baseball for Albany this summer
Son of former Siena coach McCaffery in a comfortable place playing for Albany Dutchmen
Connor McCaffery, the son of former Siena men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery, is playing for the Albany Dutchmen this season.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

LOUDONVILLE -- There's a cadence to his voice that is familiar, measured, but self-assured and easy with an interview answer, just like his father.

The face is familiar, too.

The difference there is that now you have to look up to see it instead of down.

The last time I saw Connor McCaffery, he was 11 years old, sitting in the stands with his mom Margaret and younger siblings Patrick, Marit and Jack at the Spokane Arena in Washington. Connor's father, Fran, was coaching the Siena men's basketball team for the last time, a loss to Purdue in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

In the five seasons Fran was at Siena, you got used to the McCaffery kids serving as ballboys, along with their buddies, Thomas and Kevin Huerter. Then Fran got hired away by the University of Iowa.

You could probably spot Connor McCaffery if he was standing in an Iowa cornfield now, since that young ballboy has sprouted up to 6-foot-5. And, in fact, he'll be playing baseball on his own Field of Dreams this summer, as a first baseman/outfielder for the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

Their home field at Siena is named, coincidentally, Connors Park, and the 20-year-old McCaffery couldn't have picked a better fit for summer ball, as the campus provides a comfort zone in which he can further his baseball career while also maintaining some of his basketball edge. He plays both sports for the Hawkeyes, having finished the 2019 baseball campaign last Friday with a loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

"I came to this campus pretty much every day, from the time I was in first grade," McCaffery said Wednesday afternoon during the Dutchmen's media day.

"I'd come in here, shoot, we'd hit balls, mostly on the softball field. I'd make this walk past the baseball field every day to go up to the cafeteria to eat. It's just interesting, being back. I love it. I just got in last night, so I'm still trying to get familiar with the area, but I'm sure it'll all come back to me."

McCaffery's first year at Iowa was waylaid by mononucleosis and a tonsillectomy in the winter that limited him to four games of basketball and wiped out his baseball season while recovering.

In 2018-19, he averaged 18.6 minutes in 34 games and was the second-leading assist man on the team while coming off the bench.

For the 31-24 Hawkeyes baseball team this spring, the lefty hitter and thrower batted .238 while playing in 32 of 55 games.

Albany Dutchmen head coach Nick Davey reached out to McCaffery about playing with the team last summer, but he stayed in Iowa City to continue to get his strength back after the tonsil surgery.

This PGCBL season, which begins 5:05 Saturday with a home game against Glens Falls, McCaffery should be a key player on a team with league championship aspirations.

"I know he's a physical kid," Davey said. "He's a power bat that will probably be in the middle of our lineup somewhere and somebody who will be a run producer."

"This summer, my goal was to play baseball moreso than basketball," McCaffery said. "I wanted to be able to play a lot of games and get a lot of at-bats. We just finished Friday night. The basketball was a plus. That opportunity wasn't going to be there for me.

"I'll try to work out with some of the [Siena] guys, get in some pickup games. Just trying to get shots up whenever I can. And I know coach [Brian] Fruscio at Albany Academy really well, too, so I can probably go over there."

McCaffery's brother Patrick is following him to the Iowa basketball program.

The Hawkeyes went 23-12 this season, which ended with an 83-77 overtime loss to sixth-ranked Tennessee in the second round of the NCAAs.

While there is some potential for an uncomfortable position when a father coaches his son in college ball, Connor McCaffery said it's been a pleasure to play for Fran.

"It's fun. It's awesome," he said. "I learn a lot from him. Everything I grew up with, whether it was basketball things or just life in general, has come from him. Playing for him, especially me being a point guard, I'm basically an extension of him. I'm trying the best I can to make sure that what he wants is what we're doing on the court. And off the court, as well, always taking care of my business and trying to be a leader so we have everything going the way he wants.

"I think he does a good job of treating me the same way he does everybody else. I don't think there's any example of him being harder on me, but I do think there's no free pass. If I screw up, I'm going to know about it, just like anybody else."

Connor McCaffery has been following his old Siena roots on two fronts, keeping an eye on the ups and downs of the program since his father was the coach, and checking in with Kevin Huerter, who was drafted on the first round by the Atlanta Hawks out of Maryland and made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team this season.

"He's killing it, obviously," McCaffery said. "I felt like I always knew that he was going to be really good. He was good at baseball, too. We were always good friends, but it was because we always competed and went at it in basketball and baseball.

"My dad was recruiting him a little bit, and he went to Maryland and had a great start. You could tell, from freshman year, his body hit that NBA mold and his style might fit the NBA. He's a shooter, he can defend, he's athletic, he's long, he can do multiple things, he can play in the pick-and-roll. That's what makes him as good as he is."

He said his mom will get to travel from Iowa City to see some of his baseball games this summer, and there's a chance another familiar face could be in the stands at Siena -- provided Fran can find a detour from the recruiting trail.

Either way, bring on campus has brought a wave of memories to Connor, who is staying with family friends two minutes from campus.

And it wasn't just the championships and the NCAA Tournament appearances, but the everyday process of figuring out your game as a kid, which he'll continue now as a college player.

"From the basketball side, that [NCAAs] was great, but I came here every day, and this was such a big part of my life," he said. "This is kind of where I really started playing baseball and basketball. It's all coming full circle."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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